A Look at the Self-Media Era

Interviews with Fan Chi-fei and Alex Lin

2020 / June

Lynn Su /photos courtesy of Lin Min-hsuan /tr. by Phil Newell

In an era of flourishing new media and “self-media” (or “we-media”), there are many chances and many moves, much information and many pitfalls. How do people operating in this field maintain their self-discipline against the temptations of click-through rates? In a bewilder­ingly varied media environment, how can consumers tell fact from fiction? In this issue, we invite two self-media founders—Fan Chi-fei and Alex Lin—to chat about media, their attitudes, and their objectives. Their answers to our questions can perhaps help us find our footing in this age of intense media competition.

Fan Chi-fei

Fan Chi-fei worked as a senior special correspondent in the US for TVBS and SET News, living in the States for over 20 years. Originally she returned to settle in Taiwan as part of her retirement plans, but then she struck out on a new path, starting her own media company and becoming an entrepreneur in middle age. She is considered the doyenne of the industry, and the boldest media figure when it comes to trying new things and innovating.

Industry trend: A new era of transformation

You spent a long time in the US. What did you learn from changes in the American media industry?

The biggest difference between Taiwan and the US is market size. The US is a capitalist country where both traditional media and new media are continually trying new approaches. Those that don’t work are discarded, and failed ideas are rapidly weeded out. Because the market in Taiwan is small, there is a relative lack of innovative spirit and ability to give life to new ideas, but this is a product of market scale. Broadly speaking, Taiwan is about ten years behind the US. If you want to know the future of media in Taiwan, you can look at the US today.

In the US today, the big media have transformed themselves and found a way to survive, but they have also altered their past reporting model. This is a result of lessons learned from the 2016 presidential election. At that time, because the big media had a poor grasp of local information, fake news was prevalent in rural areas, and there were even places where underground broadcast stations became mainstream. The election outcome made the big media realize the importance of field reporting. Field reporting costs a lot of money, but you just can’t do without it. But I haven’t seen this happen yet in Taiwan.

Innovative spirit: Old wine in new skins

There is so much content one can watch online. What new methods do you use to try to catch viewers’ attention?

My former colleagues all ask: Aren’t you just doing news compilation and translation? Which is to say, isn’t what I do just watching foreign media reports and then restating them for people who watch my show? It’s true, that’s what I do. But I feel I have added something new, using new methods to tell stories to the audience, such as using LINE as a carrier. Even the program I do at Global News is not traditional. We mix in American jokes and animation; the older generation may not get it, but young people like it.

Another different element in my shows is that I insist on having young people on screen. When I first started doing self-media, my hope was to get more young people interested in international affairs, so I’ve always arranged to have people of the same age group talk to them.

Self-media means having autonomy and freedom. But don’t you worry about that leading to bias and an echo-chamber effect?

I’ve certainly thought about this problem. But I think the vast majority of Taiwanese still care a lot what others think, so writers will rarely take a position that completely ignores public opinion. Mostly I don’t interfere in the reporter’s angle on a story; I only speak up if there’s a clear and obvious bias.

The people I’ve been working with for a long time, including Chang Chia-ling [a.k.a. Dohui], Kylie Wang, and Sandra Ho [a.k.a. Roll Your Eyes], all have a big online following, and they have a lot of experience in debating issues. I even feel they are better at staying on top of the news than most television reporters. And sometimes they have a better understanding of certain issues than I have—for example, Sandra Ho has herself been a campaigner for marriage equality. So in fact they understand and meet the basic requirements of news reporting, and I don’t have to worry too much on this score.

An insider’s look at how to watch the news

Right now there is a lot of fake news out there, and the quality of news reporting is very uneven. How do you select news sources?

Just now I was talking about how important field reporting is. Basically, I only look at media that has reporters going out to gather news on the spot, so I only look at traditional media. My first read in the morning is The New York Times; this has been a habit of mine for many years. I also read The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. I don’t watch TV news much, unless it’s for breaking news, such as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic or a big fall in the stock market. But I listen to radio a lot, especially US National Public Radio. I don’t often look at self-media; I only read it when there’s not sufficient info to be found in the mainstream news media. For example, I read “K-News Online” [a self-media news platform about Korea] because the reporter is right there on the spot, and he can compensate for the lack of field reporting by the mainstream media.

I’ve been collecting information on this problem lately. Right now we have over 200,000 followers on our fan page, from all over the world, including many media colleagues. I’ve drawn up a list of names, and if something happens someplace, I can directly ask their opinions. This is better than me observing events from here and talking about them from here, and it’s more credible. We are also thinking of doing crowdfunding so we can go to the US to report on the elections coming up at the end of the year. In fact, beyond financial considerations, this is also a way of raising awareness. What’s important is getting people involved, because if you get involved you’ll be more interested in the issues.

Fan American Time

Living in New York, on the front lines of media competition, Fan observed how traditional media were withering away and endeavoring to transform. This experience gave her a sense of crisis. While still working as a reporter she dug into her own pockets to launch the self-media program “Fan American Time,” and since returning to Taiwan has been involved in other projects, including a talk show on the cable news channel Global News and a world news program on LINE. The aim of her brand is to “get more people interested in international news.” Although her criterion for choosing what to report is that it be “important hard news,” her relaxed and humorous style has successfully attracted the attention of young people.


Alex Lin

Alex Lin spent the first half of his life in the US, only returning to Taiwan to take a job after graduating from university with a degree in advertising. He learned from fashion photographer Joshua Lin and documentary director Yang Shou-yi, and later established himself as a director of commercials and music videos. He eventually launched the self-­media channel “Taiwan Taike Story” (a.k.a. “TKstory”), to rediscover his homeland through filmmaking.

Industry trends: Free expression, why not?

Before stepping into the media industry, did you have any training in journalism? Can you talk about your ideas on this subject?

When I was in university I took a course in journalism. But running self-media and being a YouTuber is to me more like being an artist. For example, when I make documentaries, I don’t emphasize “objectivity”; what I emphasize is “my own” opinion. As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as objectivity, everything is subjective. But the main point is whether or not one’s subjective ideas are helpful to others. If they are, then express these ideas through videos. If your opinions suck, then keep your mouth shut.

A list of favorite YouTubers

There are so many people doing self-media and new media. Please share some YouTube channels that you enjoy watching.

I often watch channels like Vox, whose films contain a great deal of information and focus on the latest current issues. The titles raise interesting questions, which are answered scientifically. I most admire Casey Neistat and Dan Mace, espe­cially Dan Mace, whose editing, soundtracks, and camerawork are all very meticulous. Because I normally think in English, I will watch those YouTubers who have the kind of eloquence in Chinese that I like but don’t have myself, like Froggy Chiu and Brian Tseng. By blending these together, I’m gradually coming up with my own style.

Innovative spirit: Using visual vocabulary well

You studied advertising and have directed music videos, commercials, and TV programs. Have these experiences affected your approach to self-media?

I did my degree in advertising, and in advertising you often have to come up with many ideas just to get one good one. The way we film TKstory is very much like making adverts, with me and my colleagues brainstorming and discussing ideas. The process is what matters most. For example, we recently completed a video about the importance of planting trees along beaches. One of the ideas was to shoot the building and then work with an animator to simulate flooding. Another was for me to immerse myself in the sea, wearing a suit. This is a kind of visual communication.

You’ve said that filming TKstory is like making documentaries. But most documentary makers film other people’s stories from a “third party” perspective, whereas I’ve noticed that in your films you often use personal experience as an entry point, which is very “un-documentary-like.”

The issues I make videos about are ones that I find interesting, and want to experience for myself. For example, when discussing the issue of staying healthy, I personally tried a ketogenic diet and fasting. For me, having fun during the filming process is the biggest benefit that I get from this. The process is the most important thing.

However, in fact some documentary films are very personal, for example that super-popular documentary about McDonald’s, Super Size Me. The only content in it was the director himself recording his diet and weight gain. To some degree, TKstory takes a similar approach in that it’s a mix of documentary and personal experience.


Taiwan Taike Story

Fewer and fewer people are watching television, so Alex Lin targeted Taiwan Taike Story at young people who access media through their cellphones and tablet computers. He has made Taiwan the subject of his field research project, personally covering the entire island from the mountains to the seas, from city streets to small lanes. Starting out from his own experiences, he meticulously records all kinds of details of life in Taiwan, and has made it his mission to “help Taiwanese love Taiwan even more.” This positive attitude has attracted more than 620,000 subscribers.

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文・蘇俐穎 写真・林旻萱 翻訳・山口 雪菜



 大学では法律を専攻、ニューヨーク大学の大学院ではマスコミュニケーションを学ぶ。台湾で戒厳令が解除された時期にマスメディアの世界に入り、台湾のテレビ局であるTVBSやSET Newsの米国特派員を務める。20年余りの在米生活の後、リタイア後の生活のために帰国したのだが、一転して自らメディアを開設し、会社を創設した。業界ではベテランだが、常に新しいチャレンジとイノベーションに取り組んでいる。









以前の同僚から「君がやっているのは翻訳編集じゃないか」と言われたことがあります。外国メディアの報道を台湾の視聴者に見せるという意味では、確かにその通りです。ただ、私はLINEを使うなど新しい方法でストーリーとして視聴者に伝えています。また寰宇新聞台(Global News)では、アメリカ式のジョークやアニメも取り入れていて、若者に人気があります。









 先ほど地方取材の重要性について述べましたが、私は記者が実際に取材しているメディアしか見ないので、結局従来型メディアしか読みません。私が朝一番に読むのはニューヨーク・タイムズで、これは長年の習慣です。続いてウォール・ストリート・ジャーナルやイギリスのガーディアン紙を読みます。新型コロナウイルスの状況や証券市場の暴落といった速報でない限り、あまりテレビは見ません。ですが、ラジオ、特にアメリカのNPR(ナショナル・パブリック・ラジオ)は非常によく聞きます。他のセルフメディアはあまり見ませんが、韓半島新聞プラットフォーム(K-News Online)のように記者が現地にいるメディアは、地方取材の不足を補えるので時々見ます。
















よく見るのはVoxです。このチャンネルは時事問題を扱っていて、おもしろい質問をしてから、科学的な方法で答えるというものです。私はCasey NeistatとDan Maceが好きで、特にDan Maceの編集や音響効果、カメラワークなどは繊細で手が込んでいます。私は通常英語で思考しますが、中国語があまりうまく話せないので、呱吉や博恩のチャンネルを見て参考にしています。こうして融合することで、少しずつ自分のスタイルが作れればと思っています。










文‧蘇俐穎 圖‧林旻萱







但比較讓我憂心的是,美國現在不僅大媒體找到了一套生存下去的方法,不僅轉型了過來,也修正了過去的報導模式。這是2016年總統大選的教訓,當時因為地方消息掌握得很差,鄉下地方假新聞盛行,甚至地下電台成為主流,大選的結果,讓他們開始意識field report(現地採訪)的重要。雖然採訪就是很花錢,但無論如何不能犧牲,過去可能全部要求自製內容,現在或許會在社群媒體上跟寫手合作,藉著培訓寫手擁有基本的新聞記者素養,或者刊登時有一些篩選機制等等,總之就是很努力在做地方報導;但在台灣,這點還沒有看到。










剛剛一直在講field report重要,簡單來說,我只看有記者去採訪的媒體,所以我只看傳統媒體。我早上的first read,是看《紐約時報》,這是多年養成的習慣,另外還有《華爾街日報》、《英國衛報》。我不太看電視新聞,除非是breaking news(突發性的新聞),像是疫情影響、股票重挫的那一類的;但我是廣播的重度使用者,我會聽NPR(美國國家公共廣播電台)。自媒體我不太看,會看的通常已經是第二、三關了,像是「韓半島新聞平台」,那是因為記者人在那裡,可以補足field report的不足。














我最常看的像是Vox,他的影片內容貼近最近的時事話題,標題以提問有趣的問題,再用科學的方式去回答,資訊上很豐富。最崇拜Casey Neistat和Dan Mace,尤其Dan Mace在剪接、音效、鏡頭語言都非常細緻。因為我平常還是多用英語思考,所以也會去看哪些YouTuber擁有我喜歡,但卻沒有的口才,所以我也看呱吉和博恩的頻道,向他們學習。就這樣經過融合,慢慢形成自己的風格。



我自己是廣告系畢業,廣告的idea常常需要發想好多個,才會有一個好的。「台客劇場」的拍攝過程就是很廣告的,同事會一邊討論,一邊發想,最重要的是過程。像我們最近剛拍完一支影片,內容是討論在海邊種樹的重要性,其中一個idea,是拍建築物,再跟動畫師模擬做出淹沒的效果;或者我直接去海邊拍攝,穿著西裝泡在水裡等,這就是一種視覺溝通。但是如果是新聞記者,他會很直白地敘述事實,告訴你50年前的水線在哪裡,但當一個YouTuber或者說film maker,每個禮拜只推出一支影片,一定要把最重點,把最有趣的點勾出來,人家才會點進去看。






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